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Passion Is Not the Thing You Think It Is

People often tell me that I’m lucky to have found my passion with writing. I tell them they’re not wrong, but they’re not necessarily right either.

I guess I’ve definitely gotten very lucky over the years. When I think back on it, it seems everything that I started off doing “for fun” somehow turned into a viable career for me. I’m not saying this to brag or gloat. It’s more of a reflection and a preface for this article’s “surprise butt secks” moment, so bear with me.

Regarding my eventual career in writing though, it wasn’t as if 10-year-old me said, “Stephanie, you’re going to find a way to make money off your sometimes-methodical-but-mostly-random-keyboard-banging because you love every minute of it.” Well, not, like, every minute, but writing was something I gave a solid try so long ago and happened to like it. And so I kept doing it.

I never intended to become a writer. I didn’t dare to dream that dream at the time. I studied something safe, like Clinical Nutrition in school. But in a weird twist of fate, all the writing I continued to do for fun snagged me a sweet job as an editor who played video games and wrote about them at IGN.com, a huge entertainment and video games website in San Francisco. Of course, I didn’t fall into this gig. I’d grown up actually playing way too many video games, which was a major prerequisite, natch.

The story of how I started writing is just as overwhelmingly nerdy. At the beginning of high school, I’d come across a site called GameFAQs.com, which crowdsourced (and still does) how-to guides on beating any video game. This was before the age of Wikipedia, Wikia, and YouTube. If you needed help with a video game, chances are you’d find that help on GameFAQs.

Well, I forget the exact impetus here, but I was compelled to try teaching someone else about a video game, which involved writing something and getting it published. That something was a soundtrack guide for Chrono Cross, my favorite RPG at the time. In fact, you can still find and read it here (also, talk about cringe-worthy moments of looking back at your old, old, OLD writing). I still haven’t forgotten the initial thrill of having gotten something published for the first time…like, actually public! For all to see!

From then on, I was hooked. I continued to write many more detailed strategy guides, which led me to freelance gigs at sites like GameSpot, IGN, and a few lesser known sites. That’s partly how my full-time position at IGN came to be. From there, I went to Bodybuilding.com, where I wrote about working out and worked out for a living.

And now? Well, I’m still writing. For others like Lifehacker.com. For this blog.

During conversations with my mom, we sometimes reflect on the fact that my current life is at all possible largely in part thanks to her. She had willingly fed my video game addiction, which led to me being a total recluse and able to start off writing strategy guides in the first place. If she hadn’t bought me video games, I can’t even imagine what I’d be doing now.

Though it feels like I’ve meandered all throughout my professional life, the one constant that has kept my career from turning into a complete shit show is writing. I guess you can say writing is my passion, but these days it’s kind of hard for me to tell. I do it because it’s my job. I did it before because I enjoyed it. Now the line between enjoyment and obligations is blurred.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling when I’m really “in the zone” and get pulled into the thrum of my writing, work or not. Even on bad days, it’s just a matter of productivity and perspective. The fact that I’m actually energized by my work on good days and am okay with just starting work on bad days is the best I could hope for.

Whenever I read advice on “finding your passion,” I can’t help but giggle a little bit, and to be fair, I’d written something on Lifehacker not too long ago about it. It’s actually the inspiration for this post.

In that article, I shared the story of Paul Ollinger, who is an ex-Facebook-employee-turned-comedian. He told Business Insider that he knows his “passion,” or what he truly loves doing, by gauging his feelings about opening his laptop every morning. “Are you dying to open it–do you see it as an opportunity? Or do you see it as Pandora’s Box?” Paul challenges you to ask yourself.

I thought about this. Simply, I don’t dread waking up in the morning and opening my laptop to start work, whether that’s writing an article about nipple hairs or if it’s bad to hold in your poop (both real articles I’ve written, by the way).

And in today’s world, that’s a victory. Actually, that’s life.

I am living my dream job right now, and I love it, but I still complain about it; I still get stressed over it; and I still think about the meaning of life.

In the end, it comes down to grounding your expectations about what passion looks like. Expectations are rooted in fantasy and they feel nice and awesome, but when your reality doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, worlds can come crashing down. Something I tell myself every day is that you have to be able to find joy in the things you do, even a little bit, in life because if you don’t you’re not going to be able to enjoy anything–even if “passion” slaps you in the face.

Cover image credit: JanetR3

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